Jim is one of those laid back types that doesn’t offend easily. Jim and I don’t agree on much but no matter how intense our debates got on my radio show, he always maintained his good natured disposition. It’s a gift not many have.
You can imagine my shock when Jim asked me if I would like to write a regular column for his popular website, Midnightsunak.com. My first thought was this is going to piss a lot of people off. Especially Jim’s supporters. He was not concerned.
Coincidently, I had been thinking a lot about the media landscape in Alaska with the possibility of the Anchorage paper going away. Just hours before I got Jim’s call I had reached out to Suzanne Downing, publisher of the website Must Read Alaska, to get her take on what the possible disappearance of the ADN.com would mean to Alaska. Downing, who I know is no friend of this website, seems to be doing well and enjoying support both in readership and financially for her efforts.
Craig Medred, publisher of Craigmedred.news has been doing an amazing job with his website especially when reporting on the saga of Alice Rogoff. Craig is clearly a very talented journalist.
If Anchorage’s local paper goes away it could empower smaller operations like the ones Jim, Craig, and Suzanne run. I’ve always been a big fan of the free market and the decentralizing of power it can produce. The free market in all its wisdom obviously rejected the business model Alice Rogoff followed. In defense of Ms. Rogoff this is a tough time for newspapers everywhere.
I can tell you first hand gathering relevant content people want is hard, expensive, and never ending. Could it be better handled by smaller news operations if there were more of them?
Typically the media landscape in Alaska has been dominated by two organizations. The ADN and KTUU. KTUU is still a ratings and revenue juggernaut. But unfortunately for TV stations viewers are dying off and the future is digital. When it comes to digital news KTUU’s website ranks 21,322 in the U.S. according to Alexa while ADN.com ranks much higher at 4,777. KTUU’s hiring of super journalist Kyle Hopkins has helped but the TV station’s site is still far behind the readership enjoyed by ADN.com. KTVA comes in at 31,426 while Youralaskalink.com ranks way behind at 463,080.
If the ADN goes away there will be a lot of news consumers up for grab in Alaska. The TV stations that take news gathering seriously are sure to see increases in traffic. But I believe the same could be true for smaller, more nimble and independent operations.
One of the potential benefits of the media pie cut into more pieces is competition should lead to excellence as readers have more choices and can be more discreet. Also if a news organization is ideologically driven as many have accused the Rogoff run ADN, news consumers might be less likely to trust them. And when it comes to running a successful news organization you need three basic things. Credibility, credibility, and credibility. If readers don’t trust you, you fail.
Which brings me back to my phone call from Jim. For Jim to hire someone to write for him with such a differing viewpoint speaks volumes about the guy. It proves he is not afraid of differing opinions and for that I hope his readers will reward him.
Dan Fagan is a former reporter for KTUU, and columnist for the Anchorage Daily News. He also taught at UAA as an adjunct journalism professor and he hosted a radio show for many years on KFQD. You can reach him at [email protected].